September 13, 2005

Rivalries Make the Greatest Traditions

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Tradition and rivalry – like John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, the two words go together like a ra-ma la-ma la-ma ka ding-a da ding-de dong.

If you look at a dictionary, the two words receive absolutely no love. They are relegated definitions like “the passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation,” and “the act of competing as for profit or prize.” The Webster’s editors should be ashamed of themselves considering the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about tradition is Notre Dame football, as depicted in the movie Rudy, and the next thing that pops into your head is the continuous playing of that “Final Countdown” song by the band Europe. At Cornell, we have our own ritual of running to Wegman’s the night of the Cornell-Harvard hockey game in a desperate search for halibut and cod. However, if you are like me, you show up to the grocery store 30 minutes prior to game time when all the fish is sold out and you are forced to throw Swedish Fish candy on the ice. Not exactly the same experience.

We’re talking tradition. Tradition like when my friends and I make our annual trip down to Benchwarmer’s in the Commons in our attempt to eat a “fat chick.” Despite what your dirty minds think, it is an innocent culinary experience. Sadly, “the fat chick” is actually a 3-pound chicken sandwich accompanied by a Yao Ming-sized portion of French fries. If you can eat everything in less than 30 minutes, you get a t-shirt, a boost to your ego, and an inability to look at food for the next three days. The rivalry is what shapes the tradition, because no matter how stuffed you are or how little time is left on the clock, you keep feeding your face. Similar to college rivalries, you are motivated not so much by the urge to win but by a burning desire not to lose. The thought of the person across the table out-eating you in all of your man-glory just makes you sicker than you are at minute 28 with three pounds of chicken in you and 30 french fries to go. Losing is not an option. No matter what the sport, whether it be a sanctioned competition or a sick contest celebrating sin amongst friends, the beauty of the event is that it means more than the final outcome.

Tradition and rivalry are what make college sports so fascinating. They lead one to love their school at least for a day and that attachment then leads one to feel excruciating pain if that school loses. This being said, let the debate rage about what is the ultimate college rivalry in sports today.

In football, rivalry is synonymous with Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida vs. Florida State, UCLA vs. USC, and Ohio State vs. Michigan. Another is Army vs. Navy, except that game is like playing NCAA Football on your X-box with friends. The game is fun for the first quarter and then you realize the teams just suck.

The best rivalry in football takes place every mid-October and pits Texas vs. Oklahoma in a region of the country where football is a religion. The Red River becomes the 50-yard line. Oklahoma, to the north, bleeds Crimson and Crème, and Texas to the south is pure burnt orange. This pigskin hate-fest takes place in neutral territory in Dallas amidst the atmosphere of the Texas State Fair and the contest has been happening annually for so long that the event predates Oklahoma’s statehood by seven years. The rivalry has produced controversy like that of former Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer once being accused of going so far as to have an “unidentified person” spy on the Texas practices in 1976 in order to gain an advantage. Switzer perhaps described the spectacle best when he said, “it is a situation where you have two Mack trucks running into each other for three hours and 15 minutes.”

Although football is often regarded as the high profile rivalry sport, the greatest event in college athletics takes place twice every year, once in Durham, N.C., and once in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Game is a meeting of the perennial basketball giants, the North Carolina and Duke. This rivalry has prompted UNC students to add “go to hell Duke” to the end of their fight song. Fraternity Alpha Epsilon Phi throws its “go to hell Duke” party every year before UNC hosts the big game. UNC students set up seven-feet-by-four-feet chalkboards around campus where they are allowed to express their true feelings about Duke. An example: “How did the Duke student kill himself? He jumped off his ego.”

Duke students respond in similar manner, adding “safety school” to Carolina hate chants. Nights before the big game Duke students turn K-ville, which is the name for Duke’s athletic quad, into an all night drunken party center. Common outbursts include those of “Tar Heels, Tar Heels, only four more years until I am your boss.”

Just like Cornell students camp out for hockey tickets, so do UNC and Duke students for tickets to The Game. Coach Roy Williams has been known to buy chicken wings for those waiting in line and Coach K has bought his students pizza. Schafer- when we are in line we get hungry-

In rivalries such as these, national rankings do not matter. On any day, one team is just as likely to upset the other. You leave it all on the field or on the court for bragging rights for one more year. And the fans are right there too. Webster’s wants to make it so black and white, but tradition and rivalry bleed many different colors – like Carolina blue, burnt orange, or carnelian and white – through the skin of all true college sports fans.

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Staff Writer. That’s Kuhls, Baby will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Tim Kuhls